New York-based startup Tastemakers has raised a $1 million seed-round — led by Precursor Ventures — for its business that connects Africa adventures to global consumers.
Tastemakers’ platform curates, prices and lists African travel and cultural experiences — from paragliding tours to wine-tasting to concerts.
The startup generates revenues by taking a 20% commission on each transaction. Community managers in Africa screen and select experiences that go up on the site.
Tastemakers will use the investment to grow the number of experiences offered from 200 to 10,000 and build out machine learning capabilities to better match suppliers, experiences and clients — CEO and founder Cherae Robinson told TechCrunch.
She likened the site to an Airbnb for commoditizing and connecting people to Africa travel experiences at scale.
On the startup’s addressable market, Robinson references a segment of culture-curious travelers: people who are traveling to experience things such as foreign art, food, music or dance workshops.
“We looked at who’s doing these kinds of tours and and the number of people booking…and we found that globally, based on triangulating that, there are about 700 million people globally booking culture-forward experiences,” said Robinson.
For different reasons — from negative stereotypes or the difficulty of identifying tourist options in Africa — most of these excursions are occurring in other parts of the world, according to Robinson.
She sees Tastemakers’ value proposition as the site that can bring a greater percentage of these culture travelers to Africa.
On revenue potential, Robinson is pretty upfront on numbers and goals. “If we can capture 1% of that [700 million] market in the next five years that’s, $2.2 billion generated on our platform,” she said, noting an average booking cost of $308. She believes Tastemakers could hit those figures by 2025 — and by applying their 20% commission — reach income of $434 million.
Precursor Ventures Managing Partner Charles Hudson invested in Tastemakers for its potential as an early entrant in an off the grid travel market attracting more curiosity.
“I just had a sense that Africa was having a moment, and whether its Black Panther or more startups that have a foot in Africa, that there were more people interested in going to Africa,” he told TechCrunch.
“And it’s not like going to New York City…You have providers that are hard to find and hard to book..that are not super well-marketed. If you can become an aggregator and curator of those, you could effectively become the largest source of lead generation,” Hudson said.
Tastemakers is looking at ancillary partnership and revenue share opportunities. It uses Stripe and WorldRemit to process mobile payments for transactions on the site and has done promotional partnerships with Uber Africa. The startup also counts Kempinski Hotels as its biggest lodging partner.
Tastemakers also offers advisory services to sellers on the site, to better determine price-points and on marketing their travel experiences more effectively online.
CEO Cherae Robinson is clear about the company’s for-profit status, but sees upside for Africa beyond generating business from tourism. “I strategically don’t brand Tastemakers as a social impact startup…but we’re driving benefits of the sharing economy to diverse populations both in Africa and in underrepresented communities in the technology and tourism sectors,” she said.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect that Tastemakers has closed a $1M round and is in the process of raising $1.4M total for the round.